SEATTLE -- A flood of apps and some very stealthy software have hit the Internet, claiming their technology can find the truth for suspicious spouses, girlfriends or boyfriends, even a stalker. They use something lots of people carry - a smart phone.
I tried installing some of the software on my phone -- let's just say it was very easy and I can't tell that it's running.
Over the course of several days, I tested MSpy, one of several subscription-based services now available. I made calls, sent texts, took pictures, browsed the Internet -- things a suspicious spouse wants to know.
"We do have quite a large proportion of our customers who use MSpy specifically to catch a cheating spouse," said Tatiana Ameri, Mspy Communications Manager.
What did MSpy capture? Everything I did was uploaded to the cloud for the subscriber to monitor -- where I'd been, where I was at that moment, all of my texts, emails, my photos, my browser history, a log of in- and outgoing calls -- and it recorded all of them.
It even recorded random moments using the phone's microphone.
The subscriber would have full control over my phone, even wipe it clean if they wanted, and I didn't have a clue any of this was taking place -- other than my battery life was draining pretty quickly.
Surprisingly, it's legal -- with one huge caveat.
"We do ask our users to make sure they've got their monitored partner's consent," Ameri said.
Users must agree that phone's owner knows the monitoring software is installed. But in reality, who's going to do that? It defeats the purpose.
Veteran private investigators Roy Hance says he won't use mobile monitoring software despite its apparent effectiveness.
"We have less options because we have to follow what the law is," Hance said.
In many states, including Washington, privacy laws require the consent of all parties to be recorded and tracked. Doing so without a person's knowledge in most cases is illegal.
"We won't use it, but that's not to say if you are married you can't do it," Hance said.
Ameri says the software is not that easy to remove because the average person can't find where it's hidden -- unless you're security consultant Joel Voss.
He was able to find the monitoring software and remove it, but the average person may not.
Voss says some of the software's claims are not true.
"The undetected thing is clearly false," he said.
He says MSpy appears to perform as advertised, but they way information is stored could be harmful.
"It's a bad decision to purchase to use it and if someone is using it on your phone - uninstall it, that's good advice," Voss said.
It's advice that may not stop a suspicious spouse who can now turn a smartphone into the ultimate spying device.
Mobile monitoring software is also aimed at parents who want to follow their kids, and employers who want to keep tabs on their employees. The companies aren't liable if the software is installed on a smartphone without the owner's consent.